By Ron Maxwell - CEO
Employment is one of those topics that bring up a range of emotions. We hear plenty from the media, whether it’s the government talking about the latest employment data, big business discussing a skills shortage, or unions highlighting pay and conditions. It’s fair to say that employment is a core pillar of our society that impacts us on many levels.
What’s often forgotten when we discuss employment is the role it plays beyond delivering a paycheck. There’s so much more to the discussion than simply numbers.
Employment changes lives
There’s no doubt there’s a strong correlation between employment and your personal circumstances. While there’s an obvious logical connection around wages, the reality is that it goes far deeper than that.
Being employed has the ability to change someone’s life. It adds to our feelings of self worth and our ability to contribute back to our community. It’s something that provides people with a purpose, a reason to contribute day to day to the betterment of the country. That feeling of self worth is absolutely crucial when you think about the wider knock on effects to our society from a lack of employment.
Community impact of unemployment
Unemployment, by its nature, can be a difficult subject to discuss and there’s a range of issues and underlying causes. We’re lucky, in a country such as ours, to have a safety net in place to help those who cannot work, such as those with a disability or health issue that prevents them from working in any capacity. There will always be a need to help those who cannot work for legitimate reasons.
Unemployment, especially long term, is sadly tied to a range of community issues. Numerous studies have linked the rate of long-term unemployment to social challenges such as crime. Those communities with higher unemployment often experience higher crime rates, from petty crime to more serious offences.
The impact on quality of life for the community is not limited to crime. For example, areas with high unemployment tend to struggle on a range of indexes, from housing prices to a lack of business investment. It becomes a cycle that can be difficult to break.
There’s also an impact on the mental wellbeing of the community. As I mentioned earlier, employment is one factor that contributes heavily to our sense of worth and long-term unemployment can certainly have a negative effect. This again leads to a range of negative social consequences. While this impact is felt everywhere, there’s no doubt that it is worse in our regional areas. The rate of unemployment is often higher in these communities and it is often difficult to provide enough employment opportunities to keep people in the area.
Long-term economic impact
It’s worth considering the cost impact of long-term unemployment. There’s been plenty of media commentary recently on the impact long term unemployment has on the cycle of welfare dependence. The physical and emotional costs of unemployment affect us all, regardless of where you live. I believe that everyone truly wants to contribute, it’s up to us all to help find the solution that enables as many people to find employment as possible.
Finding the solution
While there’s certainly no quick fix, there are some areas we can consider.
We, in the training industry, have a role to play. It’s crucial that we continue to evolve training opportunities, from apprentices right through to mature age students, to ensure we build programs that provide people in our communities with an opportunity. Helping people into employment is one of the things I love most about our industry.
Government obviously has a role to play and has numerous programs in place. There’s no doubt we could be doing more, and we’ve seen this challenge in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) space for many years as government funding has been whittled away. However, it’s not just a government challenge.
I believe there’s a role for business to play here too. They contribute to the training mix, particularly when it comes to employing our youth and providing them with opportunities. There are government incentives across the country to help fund new employees, but it goes further than that. Businesses, in my view, need to invest back into the communities that support them, particularly in regional Australia. Providing local employment opportunities should be at the forefront of the discussion, and not just from a government subsidies perspective.
In the end, employment contributes to what kind of community we live in. All of us have a role in helping to find a solution. We should never forget that the community and employment go hand in hand; if we can deliver the right opportunities then we all benefit from the results.